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TOM TAN, ANNIE U. TAN


and NATHANIEL TAN,
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- versus - ABAD, <llH.I
MENDOLA, .JJ

HEIRS OF ANTONIO F. YAI\1:;GN, Prumulgiitcd:


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DF~CISION

MENDOZA,./.:

Before the Court is a P..:LiLion f,;r Review l)ll Ccrti,), uri ut.Lkt Ruk -15

of the 1997 Revised Rules 01. Civil Pmccdure, ass<:~ilitlg d1l~ Lk'-clliLLi' 3,
2003 Decision' and the Iv1ml.Jl 15, ~:LI04 RcsolutiOI/ ur tk.: (,Hill ,;r !\jJpl;(dS
(CA), in CA-G.n.. CV ]\lu. 66<.1{!2, entitled ".-lniJnio 1. l'uiti)<'!l 1. r,,i,i l

Ton, Annie U Tun l.llid t-/,a!w:!id {' T.Jn.''

' Designated acting llh.:mber. per :::: pe:i<il Urdc:: i'~ u. 13 -U. dated ( ktolx:r 9 . .2() I 2.
1
Rollo, pp. 26-37; penned by 1\-,-;ociate .lu~ti<:..: .\ndrcs 13. Rcyc~ . .Jr. and dHlClilt..:d i:: ll) \~~,,.:i<lt<.: Ju~ti,:c:
BuenavcnlurG J. <iuern:ro <md As~ucialc .lu::,tic<: l~c:.:,tlc:do L. Ma<~n:bon!.!_.
2
ld. at38. - -
DECISION 2 G.R. No. 163182

The Facts

This case arose from the Complaint for Collection of Sum of Money
and Damages filed by Antonio F. Yamson (Yamson) against petitioners Tom
Tan, Annie Tan and Nathaniel Tan (petitioners) before the Regional Trial
Court, Cebu City, Branch 58 (RTC).3

Petitioners were owners of seven parcels of land located in Mandaue


City. In order to raise funds to meet their unpaid obligations to a certain
Philip Lo, they decided to sell their properties.4 They issued the Authority to
Look for Buyer/Buyers on May 19, 1998 in favor of Yamson to facilitate
their search for prospective buyers, the terms of which are as follows:

I. Description of Lot:

Lot # Area TCT # T.D. #


2309-B-2 287 sq.m. 31733 0751-A
2309-C-2-A 445 sq.m. 36022 1193
2309-C-1 2,841 sq.m. 114242 01461
2318-B 2,001 sq.m. 25974 0291
2309-C-2-B 1,292 sq.m. 25973 0290
2316 5,950 sq.m. 25975 0288
2309-B-1 300 sq.m. 25976 0289
Total Area = 13,116 sq.m.

II. Price: Two Thousand Pesos (P 2,000.00) per sq.m.

III. Commission: Five Percent (5%)

IV. Expenses: All expenses inclusive of Capital Gains Tax,


Documentary stamps, Estate Tax, Realty Tax, shall be borne by the
seller except transfer tax, re-survey fee which will for (sic) the
buyers account. It is expressly understood that if the selling price
(as stated above) is of (sic) the owner, overpricing by Mr. Antonio
F. Yamson and Co. is allowed, provided Capital Gains Tax & other
related fees of the said overprice shall be borne by Mr. Antonio F.
Yamson and Co., Furthermore, in the event of an overprice,
brokers commission is waived.

V. Terms of Payment: Spot Cash

VI. Nature of Authority: Non-exclusive

VII. Period of Authority: Good up to June 30, 1998

3
Id. at 26-27.
4
Id. at 47.
DECISION 3 G.R. No. 163182

VIII. Protection Clause: After Agent reports the name of his buyer
to the Seller in writing, he is entitled to his commission even after
the expiration of his authority provided the sale is consumed (sic)
between the same buyer and seller within a period of one year from
date of submission of buyers name to the seller.5

xxxx

On June 1, 1998, Yamson informed petitioners in writing that he had


found an interested buyer. The letter, the text of which is quoted herein, was
signed by petitioner Annie Tan to acknowledge the registration of Oscar
Chua (Chua) as Yamsons buyer:

Dear Miss Annie Tan,

We are pleased to register our buyer Simon Enterprises and or


Mr. Simon Chuahe, Mr. Oscar Chuahe of your properties known as
Lot nos. 2309-B-2, 2309-C-2-A, 2309-C-1, 2318-B, 2309-C-2-B,
2316, 2309-B-1, situated along Pakna-an St., Mandaue city.

The property has been inspected by the officials of the company


and are (sic) interested to acquire for their corporate expansion in
the near future.

Please acknowledge this registration.6

Subsequently, two lots were sold to Kimhee Realty Corporation,


represented by Chua,7 and the relevant parties executed the Deed of
Absolute Sale, dated June 22, 1998.8 The remaining five (5) lots became the
subject of a Memorandum of Agreement between Lo and petitioners
wherein the parties agreed to transfer the said properties to Lo as payment
for petitioners outstanding obligations.9

Yamson then demanded his commission from petitioners for the sale
of the lots to his registered buyer. Petitioners, however, refused to pay him,
arguing that he was not entitled to his commission because it was petitioners

5
Id. at 30-32.
6
Id. at 32.
7
The same Oscar Chuahe referred to by Yamson in his letter, id. at 32.
8
Id. at 33.
9
Id. at 49, 55-56 and 60.
DECISION 4 G.R. No. 163182

themselves who introduced Yamson to Chua and that the agreement was for
Yamson to sell all seven lots, which he failed to accomplish.10

On January 21, 2000, the RTC promulgated its Decision11 in favor of


Yamson, pointing out that the due execution of the Authority to Look for
Buyer/Buyers by petitioners and the June 1, 1998 letter of Yamson
registering Chua as his buyer were not contested by petitioners, and, as such,
the said documents were valid and enforceable. The RTC did not give
credence to petitioners defense that they were the ones who introduced
Yamson to Chua. It reasoned out that had petitioners truly known, as early
as December 1997, that Chua was interested in purchasing their properties,
then they would have had no reason to engage the services of a broker.
Finally, the RTC noted that the allegation that Yamson was tasked
specifically to convince Chua to purchase all seven lots was not put in
writing. Neither did the Authority to Look for Buyer/Buyers reflect any such
agreement.12 The dispositive portion of the RTC decision13 reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby


rendered in favor of plaintiff and against defendants, ordering the
latter to pay the plaintiff jointly and severally the following
amounts:

1. 457, 182.50 plus interest at the legal rate to commence


from the date of the filing of this complaint, October 14,
1998 until fully paid;

2. 50,000.00 as moral damages;

3. 50,000 as exemplary damages;

4. 150,000.00 as attorneys fees; and

5. 10,000.00 as litigation expenses.

10
Id. at 28-29.
11
Id. at 59-64.
12
Id. at 63.
13
Id. at 64.
DECISION 5 G.R. No. 163182

The counterclaim of the defendants is dismissed.

With costs against the defendant.

SO ORDERED.

Aggrieved, petitioners elevated the case to the CA. In its December 3,


2003 Decision, the CA affirmed the ruling of the RTC and added that
nothing in the Authority to Look for Buyer/Buyers mandated Yamson to
find a buyer for all seven parcels of land of petitioners. Neither was there a
stipulation that Yamson would not be entitled to his 5% commission should
he fail to find a buyer for all seven properties.14 The CA took note that the
Authority to Look for Buyer/Buyers appeared to have been drafted by
petitioners themselves. Consequently, following Article 1377 of the Civil
Code,15 if there is any doubt as to the contents of the documents and whether
they reflect the true intention of the parties, as insisted by petitioners, any
obscurity should not be interpreted to favor the parties who caused the
same.16 Moreover, petitioners argument which was supported solely by the
testimony of petitioner Annie Tan, was considered self-serving as no
documentary evidence was presented to corroborate their claims.17

Hence, this petition.

On June 4, 2004, while the case was pending before this Court,
Yamson died.18 He was substituted by his children, his legal heirs
(respondents).19

14
Id. at 34.
15
Art. 1377. The interpretation of obscure words or stipulations in a contract shall not favor the party who
caused the obscurity.
16
Rollo, pp. 34-35.
17
Id. at 36.
18
Id. at 165.
19
Id. at 182.
DECISION 6 G.R. No. 163182

The Issues

I. Whether or not the respondent was the efficient


procuring cause that brought about the sale of the
properties as would entitle him to claim a brokers
commission.

II. Whether or not the petitioners should be held liable to


the respondent for brokers commission despite the
uncontroverted and undisputed evidence that he
failed to comply with the terms of the letter of
authority.

III. Whether or not the petitioners should be held liable


for moral and exemplary damages.20

The issues can be reduced to a single pivotal question whether


Yamson was entitled to the payment by petitioners of his brokers
commission.

Petitioners contend that, as early as December 1997, they were


already aware that Chua wanted to acquire their properties but that
negotiations failed because he wanted to purchase only two lots.21 Thus,
they engaged the services of Yamson, informed him of Chuas interest and
instructed him to convince Chua to purchase all seven lots.22 As it was
petitioners who introduced Chua to Yamson as a potential buyer, they claim
now that Yamson should not be given a commission because he was not the
efficient procuring cause for the sale of the two lots.23

Moreover, petitioners aver that the Authority to Look for


Buyer/Buyers clearly shows that their agreement with Yamson was for the
latter to search for buyers who were willing to purchase all seven lots for the

20
Id. at 266.
21
Id. at 268-269.
22
Id. at 269-270.
23
Id. at 272-273.
DECISION 7 G.R. No. 163182

price of 2,000.00 per square meter.24 Citing Reyes v. Mosqueda,25


petitioners further argue that in order for a broker to earn his commission, it
is not enough for him to simply find a prospective buyer, but he must also
find the one who is willing to purchase the property on the terms imposed by
the owner.26

The Courts Ruling

The petition is without merit.

Well-established is the principle that in a petition for review on


certiorari, the Courts power of judicial review is limited only to questions
of law and that questions of fact cannot be entertained, except in certain
instances.27 The difference between questions of law and questions of fact
has been extensively discussed in the case of Velayo-Fong v. Spouses
Velayo:28

A question of law arises when there is doubt as to what the


law is on a certain state of facts, while there is a question of fact
when the doubt arises as to the truth or falsity of the alleged facts.
For a question to be one of law, the same must not involve an
examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the
litigants or any of them. The resolution of the issue must rest solely
on what the law provides on the given set of circumstances. Once it
is clear that the issue invites a review of the evidence presented, the
question posed is one of fact. Thus, the test of whether a question is
one of law or of fact is not the appellation given to such question by
the party raising the same; rather, it is whether the appellate court
can determine the issue raised without reviewing or evaluating the
evidence, in which case, it is a question of law; otherwise it is a
question of fact.29 (Emphasis supplied)

It is utterly obvious that the issues raised by petitioners in this case are
factual in nature as they would require this Court to delve into the records of
the case and review the evidence presented by the parties in order to

24
Id. at 276.
25
99 Phil. 241 (1956).
26
Rollo, p. 277.
27
Diokno v. Cacdac, G.R. No. 168475, July 4, 2007, 526 SCRA 440, 460.
28
539 Phil. 377 (2006).
29
Id. at 386-387.
DECISION 8 G.R. No. 163182

properly resolve the dispute. Thus, the Court cannot exercise its power of
judicial review, more so that none of the exceptions to the rule is present in
this case. Petitioners did not even attempt to cite such exemptions to justify
the review of facts by this Court.

It bears stressing that the evaluation of witnesses and other pieces of


evidence by the RTC is accorded great respect and finality in the absence of
any indication that it overlooked certain facts or circumstances of weight and
influence, which if reconsidered, would alter the result of the case.30
Emphasis should also be placed on the fact that both the RTC and the CA
similarly evaluated the evidence presented during the trial and reached the
same conclusion. As a rule, factual findings of the trial court, when adopted
and confirmed by the appellate court, are binding and conclusive on this
Court and will generally not be reviewed on appeal.31

Consequently, this petition must be denied as it only raises questions


of fact. Nevertheless, even if this Court is willing to overlook this defect,
the petition must still fail.

As the CA correctly discerned, a plain reading of the Authority to


Look for Buyer/Buyers reveals that nowhere in the said document is it
indicated that the sale of all seven lots was a prerequisite to the payment by
petitioners of Yamsons commission. If petitioners intention was for
Yamson to locate a buyer for all their properties, then they should have had
this condition reduced to writing and included in the Authority to Look for
Buyer/Buyers that they executed. Since no such stipulation appears, then it
would be fair to conclude that the petitioners had no such intention,
following Section 9, Rule 130 of the Revised Rules on Evidence which
provides:

30
Tan v. Gullas, 441 Phil. 622, 632 (2002).
31
Eterton Multi-Resources Corporation v. Filipino Pipe and Foundry Corporation, G.R. No. 179812, July
6, 2010, 624 SCRA 148, 154.
DECISION

See. 0 E\ idencc ur
wriill:'ll ~lg:celtk:JitS. \\iL--:tl lht: ldti1S uf
an agreement La\e been rcluc~..d lu \\Titinh, it is cuti::ii,k:rc:d itS
containing all the terms <.!greed upllit <.inJ LlH:i t '<dl L~, LLl "~.,,:it the
parties and their successo,s in intcre:st, 11U c\id'-'nLe ,}( stwh knns
other Lhan the contents (J il'c '' iitl~'ti agn.'CitiCtd.

knowingly authorized him lU luuk ror a buyer for dtci( j!l <)(,.._.iti~::-:. l\ f,J['L~

impotiantly, petition.~rs oflcrcd no other Lcstimony hllt iii,~ it Ov\ 11 lu huLt,_:t'

their allegations. IC as they sa::r they already k1iC\v ,)r Gl,Ltu'~; lid.._J~~l 111

purchasing their properly, thC!1 the:y slhJuld have l't\:::;cJtkd ( 'l.tu <~:_; tL,:it

could only he a~;st.:ssed as self-sen ii1g

On the basis of the foregoing, Y:Hnson is e:ntitkd L11 Lis c,!il1tJd:>sl<il:

for the sale of the two lots. The other points raised ill die r;ctitidli lkl:d I!Ul

be discussed as they are a mere repetition of the argutih.l1l::-> ,,_hi eli lie~\ c l,,xtl

judiciously resolved by the Cdlllb n (1uu.

SO ORDEH'.Eu.

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.JOSE CA~yt\.L 1 l\tl:r~i1U/",\
/b::,nliatc .lust h.~.:
DECISION 10 C . R . I i o. l 6 3 I ii ~

WE CONCUR:

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PRESBITEnQ .J. \' ELJ..SCO, J H.
As so-: iatc .J usticc
( h<.lirp~rson

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DiO~;HADO l\L PEHALTA
Associate Justice

L;\A i tr\ ,;. J../


RObERTO A. ABAD
Assucicn...: .Justice

AT r 1: ~; 'f A. T I 0 N

I attest that the conclu~ions in th...: above Decisin1i had been t\.:<t~..hcd in
consultation before the case \Vas assig11ed to the \\1 iter ur the ~JIJi11iun l'>r the
Court's Division.
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PIH~SBITEH.O.J. Vt~:L,,,:.;CU., JH.

CEHTiVlCATlON

Pursuant to Section !3, Attick VIII or 1l1e (\,t~:::.tilLniun <.Ill~! tl1c


Division Chairperson's Alk:::.i~!li~;n, I c.:rtil) that litL~ LUlll:lu:...itn1s iu tlti:
above Dcci3iun had been JL .. kl:d.! itl consult<.Hid,, LLl~Ae ll1...: L'<tSl ,..,~ds
assigned to the \-\Titer or the (Jpiitilil1lll' the Court' 3 Di\ i ,it!ll.

f\r~ARIA LOU RhE:; P. :\. ~;EUEl~O


Chil !'Justice